Injustice – Past and Present.

At City Matters Class this week we discussed the issues of Justice and Injustice. Time after time the Old Testament prophets declared to Israel and to Judah that their IDOLATRY was proven in their lack of concern for the poor and oppressed. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus scolded the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

We then had an exercise where we learned about historical injustices that have impacted our history, but unknown to most of the group we were experiencing real injustice in the way the class activity was being conducted. I’ve invited the class to share their experiences and conclusions.

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7 thoughts on “Injustice – Past and Present.”

  1. I had done activities like this before, but it is always shocking to discover your own ignorance to issues of injustice. Even when you WANT to know and be involved, it is so hard to break out of your biases and really SEE the issues. Especially if no one helps point them out. We need each other to help ourselves learn, then, and that is a life-changing realization. It motivates me to share my views more with the people around me so that we can grow even more!

  2. I always think it is interesting how many parallels there are in an exercise like this (for less than an hour) and how people react in real life (where they’ve been conditioned for life.

    We saw things like pride, group identity formation, negative self-awareness and basic self absorption (un-aware of others). We saw how the one who make the rules can control who wins and what is valued and what is not. We saw how unequal conditions will usually produce unequal results.

    What were some parallels you saw? Maybe more importantly – what were some things you FELT?

  3. I felt pretty slighted by the fact that you dismissed our group’s efforts so quickly. At first I was upset, but then it made me want to prove you wrong in the next activity. It seemed to me like our unity increased after your reaction, and our resolve was strengthened. If it were to play out over a longer period of time, I’m sure the constant losing would take its toll.

  4. Good point John – and the unity of the group and resolve to do better are typical reactions in broader society as well
    – but as you said if it you were to continue to be slighted and dismissed, chances are you’d begin to feel you are “never gonna make it” then the “why even try” syndrome begins and the group identity becomes stronger as a reaction against the society that rejects you consistently.
    It’s hard to believe that there are times you have little control over your own life opportunities.

  5. The way it we were isolated from each other until our presentations kept me from even thinking that the other groups were having experiences different from that of our own group. When the first group – the discriminated against group – didn’t have visual aides, I thought it was something they had decided not to do, not that they did not have the resources (although they did a very creative presentation). When the privileged group had a PowerPoint, I thought someone had just brought a computer with them and that they were over doing it a bit – but that is because my middle of the road group had a big sheet of paper. I thought the judging that Marque did was strange, but it didn’t make me want to challenge his authority, or his unknown system for judging our presentations.

    To some extent when I don’t understand the reasons behind discrimination, or at least suspect it, I guess it just does not even come up on my radar. During most of the exercise I just was not thinking about the possibility that the groups were all being treated differently, I was just focused on what we were supposed to be working on. I think that parallels growing up in the dominant social group – the TV shows I watched growing up showed people who were from a background similar to my own. The people in my neighborhood were culturally similar to me. This created an association between being normal and being the things that my family was, middle-class, white, Christian, married parents, etc. As I became a teenager I was fortunate enough to have experiences that broke that way of thinking through education and experiences with people from other socially formed groups of people. Beverly Tatum has written that many white kids in her college classes on race come in thinking like that, when asked to describe their identity, they sometimes state that they are just “normal”.

    In a nutshell, I think this episode serves to show that people from social groups that have taken hold of power – and seek to retain it through exclusion of others, sub consciously or consciously are doing a disservice to the society as a whole if they fail to learn perspectives of others and fight against the causes of economic, educational and social disparities. So in America, I see these groups as White, Male, middle to upper class, Christian, and Heterosexual. Not that others don’t have the power or ability to make societal changes, but that people in these groups might need to think critically about their role in society and how or why they should find ways to be more inclusive to make dreams of freedom, justice and liberty a reality for all people in our nation and the world.

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